Not so fast.
The 38-year-old lefty has been out since July 18, when he left a game in the third inning with groin pain. He was set to throw a simulated game in Florida on Friday and then join the team on the road, but he was unable to throw at 100 percent, according to ESPN.com.
"He felt he could only push off about 75 percent," manager Joe Girardi told ESPN.com. "So he'll join us here tomorrow, we'll evaluate him and probably sit him down for a couple of days. Then we'll probably have to do it all over again before he can make his rehab start."
The Yankees are afforded both a two-and-a-half game cushion and the better part of two months before the season ends, but no lead in the AL East is safe, and having Pettitte's reliable fifth arm on the mound every fifth day is something the Yankees have counted on.
While Dustin Mosely was excellent in his start against the Red Sox last Sunday night, there's a reason the 28-year-old's ERA is over 5.00 for his career. With A.J. Burnett's and Javier Vazquez's unpredictability, and with Phil Hughes having already thrown 40 more innings than he's ever thrown in the big leagues, the Yankees become more susceptible to a four- or five-game losing streak than they would be if Pettitte were available. The longer the veteran remains sidelined, the more the Yanks will have to rely on that current group.
Normally, losing a 38-year-old starter isn't the worst thing in the world, but Pettitte's 11-2 record and 2.88 ERA say otherwise.
Since he went on the DL, the Yankees are 13-10, for a winning percentage of .565. Prior to that, the Yanks had been winning at a .623 clip. Obviously, there are more factors at play than just Pettitte's absence, but the rotation unquestionably misses him.
Add in the fact that Tampa Bay has played extremely poorly (losers of six of their last eight) and is due for a turnaround, and the fact that you can never count Boston out (especially with Dustin Pedroia due to return Tuesday), and the Yankees aren't feeling as comfortable as they could right now.
It is fairly crazy that the team with the highest payroll in the bigs, the team that won it all last year, now turns to a player who wasn't even sure that he wanted to play this season in order to keep its championship hopes alive.
The Andy Pettitte Watch is officially on.
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